An Open Letter: Thank you, Toronto Homecoming June 7-10, 2012 (TH’12)

IMAGINARY FLOWERS:  Thank you to the entire group of organizers, hosts, speakers and participants.  I had a wonderful experience – the result of much targeted brainpower, thoughtfulness and attention to detail.  Imagine the bouquet of thank-you flowers I am sending you virtually (use your old-school imagination please) as you are in different offices across this fine “Toronto Region” (thank you Mitzie HunterCivicAction for the language here). 

Thank you to:

Andrew Graham and Eva Wong Scanlan:  for absolutely everything… except the seemingly 40 degree walk in high heels up to MaRS on College.   Note to self: wear the shoes, take a cab.

Martha Yordache and Tiffany Blilley:  Thanks to you and your BMO colleagues for the engaging panel discussion and the luncheon.  I appreciated the straight talk from Karen Berlin about why BMO and Toronto are great choices for combining challenging work with a satisfying life.  Guillaume’s and Adam Richardson’s enthusiasm was contagious and Tim Empringham’s ability to blend his entrepreneurial side into a big bank was impressive as well.

Faye Thorek:  for making it personal, for  the “intellectual curiosity”, and for being living proof of a successful international family that continues to choose Toronto happily.  Bol’shoe spasibo.

Beth Wilson:  For getting us excited about the opportunities and for proving that Toronto is a global city – by describing KPMG’s choice to house the global services centre in Toronto.

Todd Friars:  For sharing the highlights of your career at Loblaw, and for describing some current strategic initiatives- including a focus on execution, SAP, Joe Fresh, and ecommerce.

Earl Miller:  For your shameless enthusiasm of the MaRS mission.  It’s contagious.

Morten Friis:  For the brief cocktail party talk about how Canadians might have be a little quick to pat themselves on the back for the stability of our financial sector.  I enjoyed your straight-talk perspective.

My fellow TH’12 Participants:  Do you think it possible to forget all of you?  Watch this space for another open letter describing what I learned from all of you!

DISCOVERING TH’12: I was casually searching Toronto events to encourage a close friend who wanted some networking inspiration.  I stumbled upon Toronto Homecoming (good SEO work, guys) and was excited by the promise—for me.  From the beginning of my interactions with TH’12, I felt in good hands.  Wayne Pommen and Kristen Edmonds facilitated the logistics of the Financial and Professional Services stream, and warmly responded to my questions and my suggestion to have a separate LinkedIn group for the 2012 cohort.  Thank you both!  Having the LinkedIn group enabled a few of us (namely Helene Wong, Michael WatsonEduards Smirnovs (any movement on Latvian House? ) , Aaron Vale and Oren Kedem) to  get a head start.

ARTISTS AND INNOVATORS:  Thank you to Sameer Vasta,  Chris Crowell, and Mathew Bertin for facilitating a lively conversation at the Emerging Leaders Network reception on Friday night.   Thanks to the Artists for being curious and trusting enough to crash the Innovators party with me.  You know who you are.  As I said when we threw open those big boardroom doors, I understand that innovators need to communicate their ideas… and who better to collaborate with than Artists who often communicate complex ideas to their audiences?  Thanks to all for this intersection of perspectives.

“O CANADA” WITH TEARS:  Or, how to pull at the expat’s heartstrings:  After a lovely time on Centre Island with the TH’12 crew, ably facilitated by Kevin West and Chris Edey, I walked along the waterfront.  Thank you for arranging for that musician to play “O Canada” on a Chinese violin.  All that pride in the integrated Toronto Region community became clear to me listening to that version of “O Canada”.  I was not wiping away tears, it was just the setting sun in my eyes! J.  I was an easy target and a good tipper, satisfied?   At the farewell Sunday brunch, councilor Michael Thompson implored us to “fall in love with the city… or rekindle your affection” –I was already there.

Thank you for the opportunity to get excited about the possibilities – with new friends, new contacts and new professional possibilities.  As you heard from me at the farewell, I am happy to volunteer in the future with this vibrant initiative.


Michelle Ransom

Decision architecture goes door to door

Shortly after I wrote about Decision Architecture/Choice Architecture (in the previous post), someone appeared on my doorstep to demonstrate.  A volunteer canvasser rang my doorbell, and encouraged me to vote.  Some details are changed here to protect the innocent.  Here is the conversation:
me:  “Yes, thank you for volunteering.  We plan to vote.”
her:  “Great!  Do you know where your polling center is?”
me:  “Yes.”
her:  “Great!  Will you be voting in the morning or afternoon?”
me:  (confused, then annoyed with what I initially perceived as invasion of privacy) “We’re voting!  Why do you ask if it is the morning or afternoon?”
her:  “I don’t know.  I’m just filling out this form they gave me.”
The decision architects set up the form in such a way that the cavasser’s question made me picture the location of the polling site.  She (courtesy of the form) then had me think about when I would complete the task – turning it into an action that I had to do either in the morning or afternoon.  Before I (or any other survey respondent) would be able to answer, I would have to imagine my upcoming day, and whether fitting the voting task in the morning or evening would be better, thereby mentally cataloguing it as a “to-do” on that day!  And on top of all of that – verbally commiting to it, and seeing it written down on a form – well – the survey architects just clinch the deal.  Without even the least bit of assistance from the unknowning canvasser!
I was very impressed with the simplicity and expected results of this.  I wonder what the statistics have to say about the results?  I suppose if it wasn’t effective they wouldn’t be doing it, would they?  Any one have any data or experience with this?   I’m going to be watching out for more examples as this is fascinating to me!
Oh yeah.  The election.  Oh well.  Maybe the technique didn’t work quite as well as they expected:  Scott Walker wants national role.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT YOU DO as “choice architecture” or “decision architecture”?

Yes, I’m late to the party, but I recently picked up the 2008 book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Cass Sunstein and economist Richard Thaler. (And the whole truth is that I’ve only skimmed a bit of it, but I won’t let that stop me!)

Choice architecture describes the way in which decisions are influenced by how the choices are presented (in order to influence the outcome). The book proposes that default outcomes of a situation can be arranged to be the outcome desired by the person or organization presenting the choice. This can be used with a micro (small individual decisions, like how much popcorn to eat) and macro scope (social policy, encouraging retirement savings through taxation rules, etc.).

I found myself thinking that those of us involved in consulting, coaching, change and communication do a lot of “choice architecture”. I was musing along these lines to a friend, and incorrectly remembered the name of this concept as “decision architecture”. Later I googled or wikipedia’d these terms and was surprised to see that they are used very very differently!

“Decision Architecture” doesn’t exist on wikipedia (fancy that!), but is used here in



User Experience Magazine to describe how to design a website to guide the users’ choices of clicking and navigating and buying. Quite a micro scope indeed – or on second thought, maybe I’m quite mistaken – could be a big deal if you’re designing for amazon or ebay.

Check this out….the eponymous company Decision Architecture Associates describes themselves as…”specializes in the application of advanced quantitative methods to business decision problems”. It takes the term in a whole new direction, doesn’t it? Oh, but on second-look, the website hasn’t been updated since 2008, so maybe this definition didn’t have legs.

Now, all this lead in to ask the question:

Can we usefully employ these terms
choice architecture or decision architecture
to describe aspects of our work?


// follow this discussion on our LinkedIn group